Your office can be a danger zone full of processed carbs and sugary treats. Whether you’re encountering doughnuts in the break room or it’s the boss’s birthday and everyone’s going out to celebrate at lunch, there are temptations at every turn. Maybe it’s lunchtime, and fast food is your only quick option. Or you’re too busy to leave your desk, so you’re going to have to brown bag it. Or you’re working overtime, and everyone decides to order out for pizza. How can you possibly stick to your low-carb way of eating and still survive at work? Answer: It’s easy—all it takes is some will power and advance planning. Here’s how to avoid the high-carb and sugary traps that lurk in most offices and other work environments:
Conquering Coffee Breaks and Surviving Snacks
Your office vending machine is full of sugary soft drinks, cookies, candy and other high-carb snacks. The break room adds a minefield of doughnuts, muffins and pastries. Don’t even consider them! Also, remember that too much caffeine intake is not good either. If you have already had your morning coffee, decaffeinated coffee or tea or herbal tea are better bets. Keep a water bottle filled and by your side at all times so you stay hydrated; sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger.
Eat a satisfying, low-carb breakfast before you go to work so you aren’t tempted at break time. If mornings are too rushed to prepare a nutritious meal, have an Atkins Advantage Bar or shake, or an Atkins frozen meal, which heats up in minutes. You can even throw any of these options in your briefcase or purse and eat them at work. The key is to start the day off right. A breakfast with sufficient protein and fat not only sets you up for a positive and productive day, it keeps you from experiencing an energy dip and being ravenous by mid-morning.
Low-carb snacks are important for keeping your hunger in check and making sure you are less likely to succumb to the temptations in your office. Make sure you have some easy low-carb snacks on hand when hunger hits at mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Good, convenient choices include wrapped individual cheese portions or homemade snacks as hard-boiled eggs or celery sticks filled with cream cheese or ham or turkey rolled up in romaine lettuce leaves with a little mayo and cheese. Once you’re beyond the Induction phase, your can have low-carb snacks such as nuts and seeds and some fruits, like berries. And when it’s your turn to bring in the doughnuts, instead provide a healthy low-carb alternative, such as a crustless quiche, that everyone can enjoy. You can even find delicious low-carb recipes for doughnuts at www.atkins.com/recipes.aspx. Your co-workers may never know the difference!
You should be able to get a suitable lunch at the company cafeteria. Skip the fried foods, sandwiches and desserts. Instead, scrutinize the hot entrées, the salad bar and the grill section for good low-carb lunch choices. Ask to substitute extra veggies for high-carb sides. Or exercise a host of options by bringing your own meals. If a refrigerator is not available, pack your homemade lunch in an insulated bag or small cooler. Transport tuna fish, chicken or egg salads in plastic containers; green salads can travel in a zip-strip plastic bag with dressing on the side. Baked chicken legs, slices of roast beef or turkey and steamed shrimp are also highly portable. (These foods work equally well if your job involves frequent car travel.) And don’t forget your leftovers. Make extra portions of your low-carb dinner recipes and pack them up for lunch.
When dining out with co-workers or a client, you should be able to find plenty of alternatives to carb-heavy foods on the menu of just about any restaurant. Instead of something breaded or fried, order a baked or broiled dish. Ask to substitute extra veggies or a salad for starchy side dishes such as rice or potatoes. Pass on pastries and other sweet desserts; instead, choose berries with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. Business lunches used to routinely include alcohol, but in today’s work environment it’s perfectly acceptable—even preferable—to skip the booze. While alcohol is not that high in carbs, mixers often are. Moreover, your body burns alcohol for fuel before fat, so that drink will slow down your fat-burning process.
Sometimes fast food is all that’s available or all you have time for, but it’s not impossible to get a good low-carb lunch at many of these places. Your best option at a hamburger restaurant is to order a couple of cheeseburgers (banish the buns) along with a side salad, or to try one of the larger lunch salads with some grilled chicken. Make sure you watch the grams of Net Carbs in the salad dressings that accompany these salads. Pass on the French fries. No matter how pressed you are for time; don’t skip lunch—you’ll only be more tempted to eat carbohydrates later in the day when your energy level nosedives.
Overtime carbs may be the hardest of all to avoid, especially if you weren’t able to plan ahead by packing dinner or an extra snacks. As your workday stretches out even longer, your level of stress rises—as does your desire for something sweet or crunchy. Create an emergency stash of low-carb snacks and bars so before you get to this dangerous point you can dip into it instead. When your coworkers are sending out for dinnertime food, go ahead and join in, making the best choice you can from the available menu. If your office has a freezer, make sure to stash a supply of Atkins frozen meals, so that you always have a low-carb meal at your fingertips.